If academics are good for anything (are they good for anything?), then it’s reading stuff that people are interested in (but don’t themselves have the time to read it), synthesising that stuff and presenting it in an accessible way. I’ve spent much of this year reading reports on carbon emissions produced by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (focusing in particular on its report ‘Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’), and also reports from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (mostly Working Group III’s contribution to its 5th Assessment Report and its Special Report ‘Global Warming of 1.5C‘). The output of that reading was a talk I gave at Shrewsbury’s Hmmm Squad yesterday evening at The Old Post Office.
The UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) recently published its report Net Zero: The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming. If you’ve never heard of the CCC, it was established under the 2008 Climate Change Act “to advise the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change”. As with all reports of this scale, the amount of work that has gone into writing it is considerable, and credit is due to the report’s lead authors Chris Stark and Mike Thompson. It’s also an important report: whenever you hear politicians or advocates talking about the UK’s commitment to climate breakdown, you can be sure that it is the arguments and data presented in this report that inform what they say. As the title of this post suggests, the report is best known for one number – 2050 – the date by which the UK is now legally obliged to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero. However, as I argue in this post, there is no scientific basis for 2050 to be the target date. Furthermore, and more importantly, 2050 is too late. If we continue to focus on that mid-century target, whoever writes the epitaph of our species will inscribe that date on our tombstone.
In preparation for this year’s World Health Assembly (I will be attending again this year as a WHO ‘watcher’ with the Peoples Health Movement), I’ve been reading a couple of documents produced by the WHO Executive Board that summarise the Organisation’s current thinking on health, environment and climate change (both currently in draft form): WHO global strategy on health, environment and climate change: the transformation needed to improve lives and well-being sustainably through healthy environments (EB144/15); and Global plan of action on climate change and health in small island developing States (EB144/16).
Planetary health expert Howard Frumkin tells us that there isn’t a single global challenge that can be resolved within just one discipline. “If you’re not working outside of your disciplinary comfort zone most of the time, you’re not being brave enough”.